From Rancho Mirage, California, President Barack Obama delivered a statement Saturday night on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In addition to offering his deepest condolences to Scalia's family, Obama said he will nominate a successor to Scalia, telling gathered press "I plan to fulfill my Constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time." Obama spoke of the legacy that the longest-serving Supreme Court Justice has left behind, noting that Scalia "influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape." He also called the late Justice a "larger-than-life presence" and that he possessed a "brilliant legal mind with a pugnacious style, incisive wit, and colorful opinions."
Obama also stated that "There’s plenty of time...for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote." He described his executive authority to nominate a judicial replacement as a responsibility he takes seriously. In a not-so-thinly veiled statement to the Republican-controlled Senate, Obama stated such a responsibility was "bigger than any one party. They’re about our democracy." This came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement on Scalia's death read that "this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."
"For almost 30 years, Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia was a larger-than-life presence on the bench" —@POTUS— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 14, 2016
"He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court." —@POTUS on Scalia— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 14, 2016
"Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time." —@POTUS on Scalia— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 14, 2016
"Michelle and I join the nation in sending our deepest sympathy to Justice Scalia’s wife Maureen and their loving family" —@POTUS— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 14, 2016
While there is obviously no announcement yet of who will replace Scalia, there has been some speculation that U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Srikanth "Sri" Srinivasan — an Obama appointee from May 2013 — could be the most likely candidate to fulfill the vacant seat left by Scalia's passing. Obama has the authority to nominate a replacement, but it must be confirmed by the Senate.
As the longest-serving Supreme Court justice, Scalia was known as a conservative-leaning firebrand, his loss sending shockwaves through the legal and political landscapes. Scalia was 79 years old when he passed away sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning at a West Texas ranch resort; he was found unresponsive in his room early Saturday morning when he didn't come down for breakfast. It is suspected that Scalia died of natural causes in his sleep.